A Comparison of Four Online Backup Services for Personal Use

There is a belief among some computer experts, that for data to be completely secure, three different backups are required. At least one of these backups should be stored in a separate location from the main data. This gives protection against not only theft, but also fire, water and other disasters.

With the emergence of online (web based) backup services, remote storage is now a cheap alternative available to everyone. Often referred to as cloud computing, remote storage more than amply fulfils the requirement that backups should be stored away from day to day data. The computer in use may be England, the data may be backed up in Seattle, USA; six thousand miles away and recoverable in an instant.

The four services compared are:

  • Mozy
  • CrashPlan
  • Jungledisk
  • Carbonite

Mozy Backup

Mozy has several packages for different types of users. If backup requirements are not heavy, Mozy free offers just 2GB of free storage. This is sufficient to backup 200 mp3 files or 300 photos. It is useful for trying the Mozy system, but most users will run out of storage.

Unlimited personal backup is currently offered for only $4.95 a month. Discounts are available for one year or two year signup, but monthly payment are accepted.

Mozy also fulfils two criteria for good backup practise, as a local and cloud backup can be performed at the same time. It is possible to backup up locally to an internal or external hard drive or usb flash drive. This saves time and money, but works better when the local backup drive does not contain any data for backup.

CrashPlan – Free for Personal Use

CrashPlan offers a totally different concept from most backup software. Like Mozy if can perform local and offsite backup, but offsite can be to a different computer, or friend’s computer. These services are totally free for personal use.

If online backup is required, costs start at $3.47 a month for three years unlimited backup service. Monthly payments are not accepted, but purchasers have a choice of one to three years. A family pack is available; allowing backup of any computers owned by a family, regardless of location. Prices for family packs start at $5.00 a month for three years service.

The main benefit of CrashPlan is that a family’s total backup needs can be covered in one package:

  • 1 local backup
  • 1 remote backup
  • 1 online backup

That old computer can find a useful second life as a backup machine. Attach it to a home network, keep it running in a store cupboard and make use of redundant equipment.

Online backup has the disadvantage of being slow to backup, and probably slower to recover. For an efficient service, a good broadband connection with sufficient bandwidth is required. Local backup does not have these restrictions.

It is important to remember that CrashPlan is only free for personal use, and only backups up once a day with online backup charged annually. For businesses or customers requiring real-time backup CrashPlan+ is a better option.

Jungle Disk – front end for Amazon S3 and Rackspace

Jungle Disk is completely different from the programs discussed above. Jungle Disk is not a backup program itself; it acts as a front end for non-developers for Amazon S3 or Rackspace, cloud backup systems.

For personal use, Jungle Disk comes in two varieties: Simply Backup; a basic backup program and Desktop Edition; which provides a virtual drive for backup files and files synchronised across multiple computers. Versions are also available for Iphone and Ipad. For Android backup solutions from other providers are available.

Jungle Disk sounds cheap, currently $2 a month for Simply Backup and $3 for Desktop Edition, however storage fees for the user’s preferred storage system are charged separately. The first 5GB of storage is free and Amazon S3 uploads are.

The big drawback with Jungle Disk is it not easy to plan how much backups will cost in advance, and charges are made for uploading and for storage, so costs could rise steeply month by month. The big advantage with Desktop Edition, is the virtual drive. However, the reliability and accessibility is dependent on having a good internet connection with sufficient bandwidth.

Unlike other backup solutions Jungle Disk also requires two accounts and two payments a month; one to Jungle Disk and one to the storage provider


Anyone only requiring easy backup for a single computer, will find Carbonite appealing. Carbonite is very easy to use and backs up seamlessly with very little user intervention.

The main problems, it will not backup attached portable devices including USB drives. An account only covers one computer. The ability to view backup files on the internet was recently introduced.

Carbonite is priced annually, and incentives of free months are offered for recommending friends. The current cost is $54.00 per year for unlimited storage. It is an ideal solution for the beginner with limited backup demands.

Overall all four programs offer excellent backup solutions. Carbonite is the easiest to set up, but is limited by being inflexible. The most flexible backup solution is offered by Crash Plan which also has the advantage that local backup or backup to another computer is free. Jungle Disk is complicated by the inability to plan costs ahead and the requirement to run two accounts.

Mozy is a good all round backup alternative, with the option to perform a local backup simultaneously, and predictable monthly payments for unlimited personal backups.

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